Not everyone needs a super fast laptop equipped with the fastest CPU, stacks of memory and a capacious SSD to store all your data. For some, a laptop is a second device that fits a specific need when travelling.
Students love low-cost machines as most of their content is stored on the cloud so all they need is enough local processing power to carry out basic tasks. And others want a machine for occasional use and don't have a massive budget. So, what can you get for $1000 or less?
When looking for a bargain laptop, I think your main focus has to be on the display and the keyboard/touchpad. You'll get by with a slower computer but a bad display or uncomfortable keyboard is something you'll be stuck with. Pick up a bad set and you'll hate using the system.
Look at when new models are released as just-superseded models are often available at great discounts. And, even though the line-up I've selected includes brand new systems, all the major PC makers offer refurbished systems at solid discounts. In most cases, those will come with a full manufacturer's warranty making them a happy compromise between the new and used markets.
At this end of the market, you'll also, most likely, only get Windows 10 Home. If hard drive encryption and some of the other Pro features are necessary, then expect to add a few bucks for an upgrade product key from Microsoft.
This lightweight, 1.3kg laptop sports a 13.3-inch display running at 1920 by 1080 - good enough fr most productivity tasks and streaming the occasional show using the 802.11ac WiFi.
At first glance, the Swift 1 could pass for an Apple MacBook Air as it's just 15mm thick and adds a Windows Hello compatible fingerprint reader to the 4GB of memory and 128GB of eMMC storage. There are USB 2, USB 3, 3.5mm audio, Bluetooth 4.0 and WiFi for connecting your devices and to networks.
Battery life is rated at 10 hours and it's powered by an Intel Pentium N4200 processor.
Although it lacks a touchscreen, the Acer Swift 1 is a great machine that would make a great workhorse for students or pros looking for a mobile machine to complement their main office system.
If you're looking for a convertible system, with a detachable like the Surface Pro, but don't have the budget, then the Asus T100 could represent a decent compromise. While it has a smaller display than the Surface Pro, at just 10.1 inches, there are options for boosting the default 32GB SSD up to 256GB.
As a bonus, it also ships with a 12-month subscription to Office 365 so you get a year of access to Microsoft's productivity apps as well as a stack of cloud storage. However, you might find the 2GB of installed memory is only good for the most basic of tasks. And the quad-core Atom CPU is not going to set any speed records.
The display runs at 1366 by 768 but, unlike the Acer Swift 1, it's a multi-touch enabled touchscreen and there's also a built-in HDMI output so you can easily connect it to a TV. That's handy for travellers as many hotels now allow you to easily connect devices to in-room TVs so you can watch your own content easily.
WiFi connectivity is limited to 802.11n but there's Bluetooth 4.0.
If you're after a second system to help you stay in touch and knock over small tasks when travelling, the Asus T100 is worth a look. But it's not intended to be a primary system.
If you're looking for a low-cost machine that can be your main work system, then the HP 250 G6 could fit the bill. With a 15.6-inch display, a full complement of input and output ports, a keyboard with a numeric keypad, 8GB of memory and a 500GB hard drive, this 1.86kg laptop is made for real work. And if you're still using CDs and DVDs, it even has a built-in DVD+/-RW drive.
Wireless networking is provided by 802.11ac and while it lacks a touchscreen, the touchpad is multi-touch enabled so you can use gestures for zooming, rotating and manipulating objects on the screen.
There are always compromises when you buy a portable computer. But the HP 250 G6 delivers something pretty close to a desktop-like computing experience. Albeit in a body that weights in at 1.86kg.
With a retail price of almost $1300, the Lenovo IdeaPad 300-17ISK we've tracked down is something of a bargain at under $800. Like the HP 250 G6, this is intended to be a primary workhorse, not a secondary system. It brings a large 1TB HDD to the game, along with 8GB of memory and a huge 17.3-inch display that's powered by its own AMD Radeon graphics adaptor.
This is really a portable workstation rather than a laptop. That big display sits inside a body that weighs in at a hefty 3kg and there's a DVD writer in there as well. My only concern is the display runs at a relatively low resolution of 1600 by 900 which is great for most widescreen content but lower than I'd like for a screen that big.
All this is powered by an Intel Core i5-6200U processor.
At $799, the Lenovo IdeaPad 300-17ISK is a great option for those looking for a luggable system that can handle plenty of work and is up to the tak when you want to play as well.
If you're looking for a convertible and the Surface Pro is outside your budget or less expensive systems represent too many compromises, the Dell Z511261AU Inspiron 13 5000 might fit the bill.
With 128 GB of storage and 4GB of memory, it's very much an entry level system but those specs will be good enough for many users. There's 802.11ac support as well as Bluetooth, a pair of USB 2 ports and support for Windows Hello authentication using facial recognition - something that has typically only been available in more expensive systems.
While the keyboard isn't removable, it can flip all the way over, making this device a neat compromise for those looking for a tablet but still want a keyboard - something Apple would do well to emulate as they're being left behind in this market segment.
The Dell Z511261AU Inspiron 13 5000 is a nive machine that offers great portability, solid specs and is backed by a global company.